From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:

Pretext \Pre"text\ (?; 277), n. [F. pr['e]texte, L. praetextum,
   fr. praetextus, p. p. of praetexere to weave before, allege
   as an excuse; prae before + texere to weave. See Text.]
   Ostensible reason or motive assigned or assumed as a color or
   cover for the real reason or motive; pretense; disguise.
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         They suck the blood of those they depend on, under a
         pretext of service and kindness.         --L'Estrange.
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         With how much or how little pretext of reason. --Dr. H.
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   Syn: Pretense; excuse; semblance; disguise; appearance. See
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